Does posting fast-food calorie information make a difference?

January 1, 2011

Prominent posting of calorie information on fast-food menu boards greatly increases customers' awareness of calorie information and makes it more likely that they will make calorie-informed choices, a survey showed.

Prominent posting of calorie information on fast-food menu boards greatly increases customers' awareness of calorie information and makes it more likely that they will make calorie-informed choices, a survey showed.

In 2008, after New York City adopted a regulation requiring restaurant chains to post calorie information on menus and menu boards, investigators surveyed customers exiting 45 restaurants-3 locations of each of 15 fast-food chains-about where, if, and when they saw calorie information in the restaurant and whether the information had affected their purchase that day. They conducted the survey twice at each site: about 3 months before the regulation was enforced and 3 months afterward. A total of 1,370 customers completed the pre-enforcement survey, and 1,451 completed the postenforcement survey.

Before the regulation was enforced, almost half the locations sampled had calorie information available to customers in some form other than on menu boards, such as on tray liners, food wrappers, or in pamphlets, and about a quarter of customers reported seeing this information. After calorie information was posted on the menu boards, this proportion rose to nearly three-quarters.

Chains at which the surveys were conducted specialized in hamburgers, chicken, pizza, sandwiches, coffee, ice cream, and ethnic foods (Dumanovsky T, et al. Am J Public Health. 2010;100[12]:2520-2525).

COMMENTARY

This survey was of adults making menu choices for themselves. I wonder whether more than 27% use the caloric menu information to guide their choices when they are selecting food for their children. -Michael Burke, MD